The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby, chapter Nine, we beat on

Is the meaning of "beat on" in the last sentence of The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald only "we continue to advance" or something else? Is there any relation with the heartbeat?

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

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Beat on is a reference to swimming against the current.

Here, Nick reveals Gatsby's lifelong quest to transcend his past as ultimately futile. In comparing this backward-driving force to the current of a river, Fitzgerald presents it as both inexorable and, in some sense, naturally determined. It is the inescapable lot of humanity to move backward. Therefore, any attempt at progress is the result of hubris and outsized ambition. No, it doesn't have anything to do with a heartbeat.